If you have allergies, you may remember the first time you had a reaction, but do you know why it happened? Below we review how and why allergies develop.
Allergies Are on the Rise
An estimated 400 million individuals across the globe experience hay fever, and between 200 and 250 million experience food allergies. According to the World Health Organization, “The prevalence of allergic diseases worldwide is rising dramatically in both developed and developing countries.”
It Starts with the Immune System
Our immune systems protect our bodies from infections, diseases and toxic substances. As molecules enter our bodies through the eyes, nose, mouth or skin, the immune system identifies them as either harmless or threatening.
If the body accepts the substance, the T cell is responsible, and it is known as a Type 1 immune response. If the body rejects the substance, it responds with a T helper type 2 cell, and it is known as a Type 2 immune response.
Allergic sensitization occurs when the body is first exposed to an allergen that produces a Type 2 response. It basically means that the body keeps a lasting memory of the substance, so when it comes into contact with it again, Immunoglobulin E antibodies cause the cells to release the inflammatory chemical histamine. Histamine is responsible for swelling, itching and mucus production.
Types of Allergic Responses
There are several ways allergies can manifest, including:
- Eczema (atopic dermatitis).
- Hay fever (allergic rhinitis).
- Allergic asthma.
- Food allergies.
There are many options available for managing allergies. These include:
- Practicing avoidance. Once you get an allergy test to identify what you’re allergic to, you can avoid the triggering substances. Strategies include staying indoors with the windows closed when pollen counts are high, delegating yardwork to others, showering and changing clothes after visiting Bush’s Pasture Park and running the air conditioning or an air purifier.
- Taking over-the-counter medications. Many people successfully manage their allergies by taking a combination of OTC antihistamines, decongestants and nasal steroids.
- Starting immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a long-term approach to immunotherapy that works by introducing small amounts of allergen extracts so the body can build up a tolerance.
For more information about allergy management options or to schedule an appointment, call Willamette Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery today.